I’ve been spending a lot of time with the word unravel I like the way my tongue tosses the syllables holds the spool tight on the roof of my mouth flicks it into the universe off my bottom lip my great-grandfather, Gilpin Red was Colorado’s middleweight champion made a name for himself giving blokes a mean bottom lip carried the shotgun suicide of his father in his fists I think I carry it too at least when opening a can of tomatoes big hands run in the family red stained family heirlooms I reckon that was Grandpa's secret to peaches and my father’s excuse for his hands on me a great-granduncle that killed women a granduncle that killed childhood abuse is just entropy in perpetual motion too many stars collapsing under the weight of their own gravity the remnants of a big bang like the one in Canyon City Cemetery in one hundred billion years from now every one of them will blink out in my lifetime it is predicted heirloom tomatoes will go extinct Gilpin Red's gloves are still on display fraying and begging to unravel I'm still learning who I am still making amends with time still learning how to love these hands knowing they will end with me
For Taryn Kahle
sweltering hour beads of sweat lick my sunburnt nape paddle and soap dish in hand off some nameless bank I slip into the Colorado the Grand the Rio del Tizon the Maricopa the cool lifeforce of this southwest desert as easily as I do into freshly washed sheets naked embraced sweet surrender (I’m still working on surrender) the Colorado, he/they and I have rinsed ourselves our bedrocks of many a lover many a male admirer like John Wesley Powell like the first time I skinny-dipped kissed the first boy I thought I loved I don’t find it outlandish to suggest the Rio del Tizon branded flaming by colonizers is a he/they gay reject the stubborn American West its invasive cis-het white male explorers naming monoliths [ego] bodies of water [conquests] assaulting the feminine [recreation] if the Maricopa is to be called she let it be by reflection by her own accord as he/they is with me on this board cutting through this spectrum an exercise and practice of self-love at once we try and keep things caszh this river and I too thin to plow too thick to drink * if you know what I mean we both know this flight of fancy is seasonal an afternoon delight a summer fling sure to wash out around this bend I look for coupling trout whose rippled darts fleeing my invasion of their coitus promise the end of my own courtship I have always struggled with commitment even when I cannot tell us apart submerged in him/them completely there is peace I won’t grant myself as surely as my head will break the surface I will eddy out return home to routine to khakis and button-ups to commutes and spreadsheets and plastic promotions he/they/I/we will be just another commodity to bottle given back empty at a cost as potential for tourist development as a force that’s agreeable when diverted and funneled, reshaped into productive efficient pools of labor into anything that’s not wild and free and roaring to California to an ocean of love that doesn’t know the meaning of binaries and borders the nature of our familiarity our temporal sojourn privy only to that voyeuristic heron our downy stilt- legged fortune is not about the permanence of our gender but the uncertainty of our futures
* commonly attributed to Mark Twain (to “the Mormons” by Edward Abbey) but unconfirmed by this author
Listen to my first slam poem of 2021 and follow along with the text below.
used to be I called myself a poet thought the words pumped out my mouth were Midas fingers both a blessing and a curse in the way they gave me value in the way my vain prayers will leave me dying of starvation in the way a mediocre white man thinks everything he touches is worth something that’s you and it’s me to be fair I wager it’s more than fifty percent of the room it’s the Democrat in the Oval Office too and we’ve all been cooped up a year and that year has lasted ten years now no satyr, Dionysus soaked, hive mind drinking sweat off strangers on the dance floor and these stanzas turned to gilded victory well they don’t wet the whistle like they used to be I called myself a poet learned how to make a buck spinning trauma into gold in the way my father was no different than the bulk of cis-hetero patriarchs to be crystal clear I mean in the way the nuclear family I mean the nucleus of violence taught me God hates fags turned me into a suicide bomber that survived the plane crash left me with PTSD dreams of what used to be I called myself a poet even published a whole damn chapbook to validate my mental illness thought my depression was “The Secret” like, if I manifested it I’d get that first parking spot at Walmart and there’d be plenty of paper towels and Karen would be wearing her fucking mask properly except the parking spot is applause and manifesting is ideation and the paper towels are Instagram subscribers and Karen, well she’s just a scapegoat for my own accountability cause I can say Breonna’s name five hundred times on stage but that doesn’t mean I’ve done something by the way we still haven’t done something by the way The Secret is gated community new age self-fulfilling prophecy like Christianity if communion was wine and a Xanax but I digress maybe poetry is just self-fulfilled prophecy too both for my manic cycle and this country’s self-determination toward injustice but who even am I if I can’t write some sad gay boy shit, ya know and who even is America without pigs killing with impunity and mediocre white men’s less than mediocre boners for making American great again like it used to be I called myself a poet you ever call yourself a lie so much you start to believe it it’s a trick I learned with lonely turns out middle school accelerated reading was kind of a grindstone for disassociation turns out the crowds who snap my verse enable my addiction to broken but just because it used to be doesn’t mean it has to be which I know sounds like some corny self-help book crap a therapist would use to fill an awkward silence but whatevs I’ll roll with it and call myself happy and call myself loved and call myself worthy call myself alive and maybe, sometimes what used to be is good enough to be again so I’ll call myself a poet
there are days when i wake up buried in laundry under ultraviolet light these clothes would show a bloodbath there's no delicate setting on this spin cycle impossible to separate childhood from the whites from you quit softener and dryer sheets years ago because it all comes back the same one time in fourth grade we all got caught smashing melons in a garden not that cantaloupe is a tough stain it just feels like a kinder way to tell you i don't think i can carry the load today January 6, 2021
today i cried the sudden out of nowhere wasp sting between the fingers COVID swab up the nostril kind of cry for the man on the bridge was a titan of grief propped up on six legs nothing special about today or the bridge or the man or the tears just that the medication seems to be working better than expected November 11, 2020
i don't know what tomorrow brings the breathless ache of begging pardon from the departed or the lips of beautiful boys in dive bars pressed to poem taught me it's apt to be neither the good or the bad or the absolution desired how many hours did i chase both (hours and hours and hours and days and weeks and months and years) to find myself here there is both and you and us tomorrow
November 2, 2020
it feels like it's coming back / inside / a subtle shift / same as before / different / every time / shifted to the counter / to make room / boil pasta / never replaced / no one would care / why should i / who even has a decorative kettle / boy / it's easy / to shift / outside / tangible / nameable / the kettle / so i shift / the apotheosis above the headboard / clear my head / get a little / crazy / fuck alphabetizing / the books / deserve a little elbowroom / a shift / outside / doesn't fix inside / maybe i can / trick it / it's alright / i guess / no / it's right / just right / for now
September 9, 2020
On the weekend COVID-19 hit my town, we descended into a canyon south of its outskirts named for the friars Dominquez-Escalante. Their troop never explored this monolithic crevice, crossing the Rio del Tezon some forty miles north-east, but the mythos of destruction claims much of the barren West. I wonder if aisle fourteen of the supermarket back home will suffer a similar fate? Two crows guard the trailhead, harbingers of a destiny inescapable. Even here life has retreated to some secret refuge from the coming storm. It is only us, the whistle of riverbank grass, the eroded boulders of a dry inland ocean. The quiet. We march on looking for the remnants of a people delivered by coyote. Sinawav has escaped through his hole in the heavens. On a boulder face, hidden behind juniper and sage, petroglyphs portray a mural of past abundance. Melted snow-capped mountains run across its length giving life to a forest of horned ungulates, bear prowls the periphery, the sun follows a reassuring arc. Did they record this breadth of life in anticipation of its demise? Did they know the white man would bring his disease back then, and now? How strange to panic about our history.
March 15, 2020